25 years ago, Jeffrey Frechette bought “the last $100,000 house in Seattle”, a tiny 1940s-era war bungalow that he describes as “a shack, literally built on cinder blocks and phone books.”
As a recent architecture school grad, he immediately began designing an addition, leaving the original structure in place for him and his wife to live in. After building more space for his growing family, he continued to build and was soon renting out an upstairs apartment. He didn’t stop designing and building; soon, he had a Scandinavian-inspired backyard home and a wood-burning sauna for rent.
Today, he can legally rent the two units, one as an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) and the other as an “extra room.” The entire compound is inspired by Japanese courtyard design with plants for natural privacy screening and planned views. Frechette feels fortunate that his passion has translated into passive income for the family, but he admits that “it’s a lot of house I’ve managed to piece together over 25 years”. He has a friend who jokes that he goes to “Remodelers Anonymous.” “He’s like, ‘you just can’t stop,’ but I mean, I just love doing it. It is my favorite thing to do.”
Frechette does all of the work himself “the plumbing, electrical, hydronic heat system and a lot of furniture.” Much of his work is inspired by the materials he finds at salvage yards, like the huge round window that dominates the ADU living room or the shoji screens which cover the cheap, vinyl sliding door in the bedroom.
The backyard unit sleeps 8 in just 800 square feet, and Frechette took advantage of ideas like suspended sleeping lofts for space efficiency. The A-frame bedroom in the loft was inspired by his love for sailing.